From the blockbuster soundtrack as you enter the dark cinematic space, to the iconic film projections rolling over the ceiling and interviews with costume designers, directors and actors filling the surrounding space; Hollywood Costume has come alive at the V&A!
I was lucky enough to be invited to the special preview of the exhibition before it becomes available to the general public on Saturday (20th October). With every piece telling a story; from the opening figure of Marlene Dietrich in Angel and her ‘piece of woven jewellery’ dress, to Johnny Depp’s ‘beetle-like armour’ in Sweeney Todd; the sexualised connotation of a 1970s polyester shirt worn by Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain to Brad Pitt’s lavish pornographic prints and dry blood-red leather biker in Fight Club- you begin to understand that everything you see on screen is most definitely there for a reason.
Senior curator and celebrated costume designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis (films include The Blues Brothers and Raiders of the Lost Ark) was there and spoke of her love for both the V&A and costume. “Costume is not about clothes- it is about creating particular individuals every single time. Fashion does not exist in film.”
Having taken 5 years to create (and being officially sponsored by the original Hollywood jeweller, Harry Winston- who else!) the space is split into 3 ‘scenes’: deconstruction, dialogue and finale, or as Landis put it, “to blow your mind” -and it sure did! With the iconic poses of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, Kate Winslet in Titanic, Keira Knightley in Atonement and Marilyn Monroe in Some Like it Hot; the exhibition is a marvel and appreciation into the world of costume. Not only does it help bring the character alive, but it defines them and places them in a historical capsule that depicts popular culture of the time.
With the help of digital technology, the costumes are portrayed to the highest of standards with a vision of the actor placed on the head of the clothing so you get a clear understanding of the context. And with informal interviews watched on screen by costume designers such as Colleen Atwood, Ann Roth, Deborah Scott and method actors Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro, made you feel like you were there, backstage, eavesdropping into the most tantalising of conversations.
As you come to the end and peer up at Michelle Phieffer’s Catwoman, on the ledge ready to pounce over to Satine from Moulin Rouge and Dorothy’s faded sequin ruby slippers in their glass box, you realise you have just witnessed something very special. And with news just announced today that the BFI will be donating 700 costumes to the V&A in its honour, making them the official national collection of film costumes- it’s safe to say, you most definitely have.
Hollywood Costume runs at the V&A from Saturday 20th October until 27th January 2013.
Images courtesy of Ashanti Jason http://adorngirl.com/
Sian @ FashionBite xx